Work of Art: Next Great Artist (Bravo) – Episode 1-4 Review

“They look like little kid dicks.”
-Peregine Hoing

Did that shock you? If not shocking, at the very least it’s not the type of thing you hear coming from your television on a run-of-the-mill Wednesday night. Episode 4 of Bravo’s Work of Art: NGA (or as it’s commonly known, “The Art Show” -much better name), promised to be “shocking”, and came through fairly well on that promise.

The warning label that appeared before episodes 2 and 3- “THE FOLLOWING PROGRAM MAY CONTAIN MATERIAL THAT IS UNSUITABLE FOR YOUNG VIEWERS. PARENTAL DISCRETION IS ADVISED.”, was exhausted after episode 4’s shock challenge. It was shown every time the show returned from commercials, totaling seven times, including before the little 30 second show-nugget Bravo drops into excessively long commercial blocks. The warnings were apropos considering the strong sexual content of the work, and as any good deviant knows, did nothing but draw more attention, more viewers.

Brought in to oversee the debauchery was none other than ol’ Piss Christ himself, Andres Serrano. Guest judge Andres Serrano is best know for his 1987 photograph “Piss Christ”, a work that was funded, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts. The issue of Federal funding being used to create work that some deemed offensive made Serrano a star. It also happened to cripple public arts funding, spinning it into a by proxy shell game of siphoning money through different channels until blame could only be found with those who invited it. Moral: sometimes when you poke the bear, the bear pokes back. Annnnnnyway, Serrano was brought in to inspire fearlessness amongst the contestants. His rallying cry to the artists was a shit-filled rant, which lightened the mood and smartly showed them that they could be free; that there were no repercussions.

The easiest way to raise an eyebrow is to sex it up, and seven of the eleven artists did just that. Jaclyn (nude pics), Mark (child abuse), Erik (child abuse), John (auto-fellatio), Peregine (syphilitic models), Ryan (tranny facial), and Miles (cum-stained Mickey Mouse) all played the sex game to varying degrees of success. Only Jamie Lynn (religion), Abdi (race), Nao (gross), and Nicole (gross) chose to stimulate without evoking the cock.

Retained for crit were Erik, Nao, Abdi, Jamie Lynn, John, and Jaclyn, and as a special treat for viewers and special “shock” for the artists’, two contestants would be sent home. Boy howdy, was it ever a shock when they revealed which two!

Singled out for achievement were Jaclyn and Abdi. Jaclyn (as she seems to solve every problem) stripped down and took naked pictures of herself, while Abdi made angry head bombs. Jaclyn’s work was particularly strong because she set out a tin of markers to encourage visitors to deface and demean the photos of her sweet sweet body. Problem was the idea for that was not her own. The completion of her work through conceptual processes came, from of all places, Erik (who up to this point has shown a complete lack of insight or profundity). It was also well-noted by Ryan that Jaclyn’s main flaw seems to be not the work she creates, but the way by which she carries herself. Making art that explores gender issues (the male gaze and all that jazz) one would think that an artist interested in such things wouldn’t parade about like a vamped-up tit show. Or if they did, that they would be acutely aware of this paradox in order to exploit and explore it. Jaclyn seems to be happy just flashing her cans, and while we all enjoy it, it proves antithetical to everything she creates. Because of this, Abdi, a two-time crit runner-up won the week and will have immunity going into week five.

Erik, Nao, Jamie Lynn, and John were deemed least shocking and faced a 50/50 shot of not making it to next week. Erik created an image that could be best described as a poster for Catholic Priest molestation. Continuing his unwavering streak of thoughtlessness, the image added absolutely nothing to the discourse of the content, and was in no way shocking. Jamie Lynn did a nicely drafted Last Supper inspired cartoon. Presented to a panel that includes a man who dumps crucifixes into vats of urine, this “outrage” directed at religion was benign if not wholly pleasant. She was ravaged for her niceties by both Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn who said “As you’re describing it, it sounds at its best like a New Yorker cover.” And by Serrano who added “Not everyone can be shocking. You have to have a strong character for that. I don’t think you really have it.”
Even though Jamie Lynn severely deserved it, having someone you revere in the art world look you straight in the face and say “kid, I don’t think you really have it” has to be a nightmare come true.

John created a large, childish drawing of a man performing auto-fellatio (i.e. a man sucking his own penis). Serrano has seen this done, even photographed it himself and thought that the amateurish rendering lessened the image’s blow. In another spellcheck oversight, John unfortunately crowned the piece with the words “Auto-Follatio”. Upon seeing it China Chow feigned disgust while exclaiming “He has an awfully long penis”, while Jerry Saltz thought it would have been better had John photographed himself committing the act of self-satisfaction. On a personal note, I hope to God that one day I will submit something for approval and get a response of “It would be better if it were a photograph of you sucking your own dick.” Nao sulked around the gallery in some sort of nebulously gross garbage-y attire. Serrano was put off by the performance, which he registered as some degree of “shock”. But Jerry Saltz picked it out for what it was. The piece had no meaning beyond a vague disgustingness, prompting J Dawg to group it with other “adolescent, mixed with shock-your-grandma Performance Art.”

So here we have two artists who “shocked” poorly, Nao and John, and two artists who demonstrate a clear inadequacy for range and execution, Jamie Lynn and Eric. Jamie Lynn and Erik’s works were in no way “shocking” and failed the task by every measure. Remaining on the show for at least one more week will be… Jamie Lynn and Erik! Nao and John were sent packing despite being adept and conversant visual artists. It simply made no sense. If Nao can rile even a doubt in Serrano’s mind she should be kept. As for John, you couldn’t even show what he created on tv! His piece, the entire night, was one large field of pixilated flesh tones. For that alone he should have been rewarded. How does that book covered with your pirated art taste now, Parot?

HIGHLIGHTS

China Chow’s dismissal preface, “The art world is fickle. The only rule in art is what works, and none of your pieces did!”

Hearing Simon de Pury say “That’s good shit!”

China Chow’s absurd wardrobe of haute couture dresses, clearly an SJP connection.

China Chow’s legitimate shock over Peregine skewing her fashions in her STD riddled fashion sketches.

Nao creating her performance attire mainly out of jumbo Utrect bags.

Simon de Pury confessing to Miles (and everyone else on earth who might care to know) that he experienced his first erection while looking at a Renoir.

Coming out to see the exhibition of “shock art”, actor Steve Coogan.

That’s right, THE Steve Coogan.

# of Koons references, 0.
# of Hirst references, 0.

And for those keeping track at home, the five eldest artists were the first five kicked off.

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